In today’s episode, we will discuss whether legal protections can actually help you scale your online business or hinder your growth.
You will learn:
➡️ Why you need to be proactive instead of reactive when it comes to your Coaching business legal protections.
➡️ Why you need a Trademark protection in place to protect your brand.
➡️ What Copyright protection does for your coaching business
➡️ How to keep your business and brand identity valuable and unique
➡️ How to protect your trade secrets
➡️ All about Licensing Agreements and how it can work for you
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Legal Disclaimer: Although Mariam Tsaturyan is a licensed attorney, she is not your attorney. Any information, tips, or materials in these podcast episodes are for educational and informational purposes only. No attorney-client privilege or relationship is established by your subscribing, downloading, or listening to any of Not So Risky Business podcast episodes. The information shared in the Not So Risky Business podcast episodes is not intended to be legal advice and should not be construed as such or as a substitute for getting legal advice from your attorney. If you need specific legal advice, consult with your attorney.
[00:00:00] Mariam Tsaturyan: Will legal protections stifle the growth of your coaching business or will they actually help you grow? This is the question that we're going to answer during today's episode. Welcome. A lot of people think when it comes to legal requirements, legal protections, that they are hindrances that, for example, if they operate their business with an airtight contract or they have policies in place, procedures in place, then it's going to keep some customers away from their businesses. Maybe they won't get as many clients or leads that
[00:00:39] Mariam Tsaturyan:
as they would, if they didn't have those policies, procedures, contracts, agreements. Now I'll be the first one to admit that may be true. There might be some truth to that, but consider this, do you really want to work with a client who is afraid of a contract that is supposed to protect you and them?
[00:01:00] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Yes. A good contract is supposed to protect both of you. It's never one sided. In fact, if a contract is heavily in your favor and completely puts your client under the bus, basically, then it's not going to be a valid contract. You don't want to work with those people who are afraid of boundaries, who are afraid of processes, procedures, contracts because those are most likely going to be problem customers. But with all of that aside right, today, we're trying to discuss and determine if legal protections will actually help you grow or hinder your growth. So let's take a look at some key aspects in your business and what legal protections would mean for your coaching business.
[00:01:47] Mariam Tsaturyan:
When it comes to those particular aspects and we can make a decision together. So when it comes to your coaching and protections, the one of the very first things we need to consider are, as we already mentioned, Contracts and agreements. As a coach, you work either one-on-one or in a group setting or both.
[00:02:09] Mariam Tsaturyan:
You might offer VIP intensive days and you might have a group coaching program, or you might have a VIP one-on-one packages as well as a standard group coaching agreements, whatever is your style is fine. As long as you're carrying it through and helping your customers. But when you work with people or businesses, regardless, whether you're B2C or B2B, there are some protections you need to have in place and some potential legal pitfalls that you might come across in your business. For example, when you're working with somebody one-on-one, there might be a lot of liability issues that you need to consider such as, guarantees, disclosures,
[00:02:56] Mariam Tsaturyan:
NDAs, confidentiality agreements, protecting your trade secrets, if you have any. Protecting your IP, your methods. If you're working with people in a group setting, well, then you really have to worry about your IP protections, somebody from your group going and starting a program on their own and teaching exactly what you're teaching them in the same, exact way that you're teaching them.
[00:03:21] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This happened so many times to my previous clients. That it is not a rare thing. It is actually a very common problem in the coaching industry. So you need to be aware of that and take precautions against that. Now, when you're working with people, obviously you need to have certain protections. With one-on-one, you need to have one-on-one coaching agreement in place.
[00:03:46] Mariam Tsaturyan: T
his agreement will list everything that you're going to offer to this client. In other words, describe the scope of the services that you will be providing. As well as describe everything else that you're not offering. This will lay out the process of working together. When and how you're going to meet, how long is the meeting going to be?
[00:04:11] Mariam Tsaturyan:
What happens if one of you can't keep the appointment? How many days in advance or hour in advance do you need to give notice for cancellation? How do you reschedule? Can you get a refund for the money that you paid to your coach? This is of course for your clients. As a coach, are you obligated to refund somebody money?
[00:04:35] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Or Return. If, for example, if you're a product based business, are you obligated to take back the product and refund them the money? Whatever the case, the point is when you're a coach, you have a coaching business. The sky's the limit when it comes to liability and legal issues that you might come across.
[00:04:57] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This is the reason why I keep preaching that as a coach, you need to be proactive as opposed to reactive. Now coaching client agreements are meant to protect you. They are also meant to protect your clients. Is this something that's going to hinder your growth? If you have a coaching client agreement or is this something that's actually going to help you?
[00:05:22] Mariam Tsaturyan:
In my humble opinion. I think this is something that should most definitely help you. With your business, because everything is clearly stated in your contract. Both parties know what to expect. You're offering the exact services that you were hired to offer, and you're not offering anything more that you weren't hired to do right. So coaching client agreements are a factor in legal protections and in my opinion, this is a factor that weighs toward helping your business grow instead of against it. Now what is another thing that we can take into consideration in order to make a decision? Let's talk about your brand.
[00:06:06] Mariam Tsaturyan:
As a coach, you either have a personal brand, meaning you named your brand after yourself, your entity, your persona is the brand behind your business. You are the brand. You are the identifier for your brand. Or if it's not a personal, coaching business, you probably came up with some sort of unique brand identifier or a name or a slogan or a logo in order to exist and be identified. Now, when it comes to your brand. The best thing you can do is to have a trademark registration for it. Your trademark registrations, I'm talking about federally, federal trademark registrations, or on a national level, not your state level, right?
[00:06:55] Mariam Tsaturyan:
National trademark protection is something that will absolutely protect your trademark from infringement. This means that anyone else out there is forbidden from using your exact brand name or slogan or logo, whatever it is in a similar business. It also means anyone else is forbidden from using a similar name in a similar business so nobody can use the exact name and nobody can use a confusingly similar name in order to create a business that is the same or in a similar field as you. As you can imagine, having a trademark protection in place will greatly help your coaching business because now you have protected your brand.
[00:07:44] Mariam Tsaturyan:
One of the most important and valuable things in any business is their brand, brand identity and presence. And with registered trademarks, you're able to protect that and prevent anyone else from using it. So it's a two-fold protection and it does help your business, obviously. The flip side of trademarks, we have the copyrights and copyrights protect original works of authorship and your business.
[00:08:14] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This can be things like, your books, your content, your original images. This can be something like a software that you came up with, a music composition and architectural design, even as something like a dance choreography, as long as its original work of authorship meaning you created it, you didn't copy it from anyone else. It can be protected under copyright laws.
[00:08:41] Mariam Tsaturyan:
When you're a coaching business, you have a lot of content. You have a lot of original, either image, graphics, slogans that you came up with, phrases that you're known for. These are all things that you can protect with a copyright as well as trademark when it comes to phrases. Of course, only that.
[00:09:02] Mariam Tsaturyan:
But your copyright protection, your copyright registration will again provide you with the opportunity to make sure that what you have is yours. And if somebody infringes what you have. There are steps that you can take to remedy that situation. If you don't have a valid copyright registration, you cannot file a case in court.
[00:09:28] Mariam Tsaturyan:
You have to have a valid registration in order to file a claim. To get access to things like actual damages, statutory damages injunctions and much more. Obviously protecting your content, preventing anyone else from copying you from basically taking your content and passing it off as their own and profiting from it.
[00:09:52] Mariam Tsaturyan:
You could prevent that from happening with copyright registrations and shoot that actually happened. A copyright registration actually gives you the tools to fight that. So in this aspect as well, With intellectual property protections, your business will grow more with the legal protections in place than without, because without the legal protections in place, somebody infringes your trademark or somebody infringes your copyright, there isn't much you can do in terms of steps that you can take to remedy the situation.
[00:10:29] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So sooner or later, your business will be diluted. Your brand identity will be diluted. The offerings in your business, the products, the services will be copied so many times it will start losing value. So absolutely IP protections or intellectual property protections
[00:10:47] Mariam Tsaturyan:
help your business grow. They do not stifle your business growth. Now another thing that I want to mention. This is a unique aspect of intellectual property, trade secrets. Not every single business has a trade secret necessarily, but most do. A trade secret is as the name suggests a secret, an unknown information about something that holds, on its own a commercial value. This is something that other people are interested in, but they do not have access to. And you as the person, who has access to this information as the business owner are taking active steps to protect that information from becoming public.
[00:11:38] Mariam Tsaturyan:
A few examples of trade secrets. For example, we have the Coca Cola recipe. That is a trade secret because Coca Cola recipe is something that many soft drink companies out there tried to replicate, or at the very least the flavor of Coca-Cola they've tried to replicate, but they failed. Obviously that recipe is extremely commercially valuable.
[00:12:01] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Therefore, that is Coca-Cola's trade secret. They are doing everything in their power to protect it and prevent that from becoming public or known to other people. Now, unlike copyrights and trademarks, with trade secrets, you do not actually need to register it. There is no body of government where you can go and register your trade secrets. Instead, the trade secrets are things that are protected more with agreements and contracts. Things like non-disclosure agreements or confidentiality agreement. Things like non-solicitation or non-competes , so all of these are things that you can sign and have in place to protect your trade secret. Of course, the business owner or the owner of the trade secret must take reasonable precautions to prevent that information from becoming public, meaning it is no longer a secret.
[00:13:00] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So you need to take active steps. If you have to lock that information in a safe box, do so. If it's a digital information and not a physical one, you can protect it under firewalls with, you know, maybe multiple levels of passwords until people can unlock it. The point is you have to show that you are taking reasonable steps toward protecting that information and from that information becoming public. So these are your trade secrets.
[00:13:29] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Now could a coach or a coaching business benefit from trade secrets or is that something that would stifle your growth? I say with a hundred percent certainty, trade secrets are something that will absolutely help your business grow.
[00:13:48] Mariam Tsaturyan:
If you have a particular methodology, a formula, a recipe, your client's list, maybe your workflow list or the process of how you do business. Maybe it's a secret that you came up with that really puts your business on a map or put your agency on the map. Well, then these are all considered trade secrets and you have to protect them and these are the things that bring value to your business as well.
[00:14:16] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Now, so far, we have discussed agreements and contracts. We have discussed trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets now, and all of this way to work legal protections, actually helping your business grow as opposed to stifling your growth. One other thing that I want us to consider when it comes to legal protections requirements and the growth of your business are licensing laws when you're a coach, right? If you're working, if you're providing one-on-one services then you are trading time for money. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but what it means is that you only have certain number of hours that you can work. Therefore, the number of clients that you can take for a one-on-one services, there's a cap on it. It's not an unlimited number. You cannot possibly work with like hypothetically, 10,000 people and provide one-on-one services to them. So you either scale and work in a group setting or what you can also do, let's say you have this particular coaching formula that you came up with and it is great and other people learned it from you. They want to use it. They want to know how they can use it. How they can leverage the brand identity that you have created around your brand, how you can leverage the reputation that you created with your trade secret, with your secret formula or method in order to grow as well. ,
[00:15:55] Mariam Tsaturyan:
This is where something like licensing enters the stage. Licensing is the process of somebody else who does not own the intellectual property rights toward that particular piece of information or tangible thing, being able to use that intellectual property for commercial purposes, but on a very limited basis.
[00:16:23] Mariam Tsaturyan:
For example, let's say, you're this amazing coach who has created a method of coaching other people, maybe you came up with this unique formula. Maybe you came up with this unique process and it's valuable in and of itself. It has commercial value. Other people would want to know it because let's say hypothetically, if other people found out about that they could use it for their businesses and it could dramatically improve and increase their profits. What can you do? How can you take advantage of something like this? If a trade secret or your intellectual property such as your trademarks and copyrights in order to increase your profits, especially when you have a cap on your time and number of clients.
[00:17:16] Mariam Tsaturyan:
You can license out your intellectual property. License out your trade secret. This means for a fee, you will give another person or business. A non exclusive right and a limited right at that to use your method or your brand name in their businesses for commercial purposes. Now, the way you structure licensing agreements are totally flexible.
[00:17:46] Mariam Tsaturyan:
And they're dependent upon what kind of licensing structure you want, what kind of relationship you want with this person? So your licensing agreement could be very strict where they have to work under your main umbrella. For example, if you have a coaching methodology, then they will all work under your business name when using your particular methods.
[00:18:10] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Or it might not be so strict or limited, you might actually, let people pay you a certain amount of money for their right to use it and they can go ahead and use it in their businesses without any more requirements on your end, right? So far, we have determined that a lot of these legal protections actually help you grow. They do not stifle your growth.
[00:18:36] Mariam Tsaturyan:
Is it possible that one or two people or clients don't want to work with you because maybe they're averse to signing a contract or an agreement? Absolutely. This happens all the time. It's nothing new and it's not something that you should consider when trying to determine whether to be legally protected or not.
[00:18:57] Mariam Tsaturyan:
I hope you're not even considering not being legally protected and you are moving forward in your business as the serious business owner that you are. As the CEO of your business and company who intends for their business to be legally protected so that it can actually continue for many years to come.
[00:19:17] Mariam Tsaturyan:
So today's goal was to answer this one question, will legal protections stifle your business growth or help you grow? And so far based on our analysis and looking into various legal aspects of your coaching business, our answer for today is that legal protections actually help your coaching business grow, stand out and leverage your intellectual property and what makes you unique in a way that brings you more profits and more recognition. They absolutely do not stifle your business growth.
[00:19:58] Mariam Tsaturyan:
I hope you enjoy today's episode. If you found that valuable, I would love it if you went on Apple podcasts and left me a review for this episode, thank you so much until next week.